Infertility is one of the most painful experiences a woman will ever go through. It cuts you to your primal core and you don’t leave without having changed in some way. I may have had success but it doesn’t feel that way sometimes. I’m unresolved, as they say. But for many women in this world, there will never be a pregnancy or a baby shower or even a marriage once IVF has had their way with them. These bitter, painful stories don’t get much mention in mainstream media or much sympathy, to be honest. How many times has a woman been told to “just adopt” or be happy for what you have? It could be worse, you could be going blind…..oh the comments. And then the world celebrates the pregnant celebrity at age 50 with their gorgeous boy/girl twins. The words surrogate or donor eggs might be thought but they sure as hell aren’t getting spoken (unless someone outs them – which does tend to happen). People bemoan the duty of said celebrity to speak about their journey “for the rest of us” but knowing how painful the whole procedure is, I don’t blame them. So I get it, the public still thinks that they can have babies at 50 (yes, even my friends in their late 40s and early 50s are still on the pill because they are afraid their OH SO FERTILE bodies will get pregnant). My point is, this isn’t a slam dunk. Not everyone has success with IVF and you better believe that has plenty to do with the fact that ART is becoming as popular as the big mac. Nobody wants to talk about the failures sure as our food industry doesn’t want to talk about what is happening to our bodies or to our children (THAT is another blog post for sure). In IVF/ART land all is well and there is always hope. Just like Disneyland – you only see what they want you to see – going backstage is a completely different experience (just ask my husband, he worked at Eurodisney straight out of college – I think the analogy is apt – he describes backstage at Disney something out of a correctional facility, by the way).
IVF is such big business because women are delaying their family building plans (for so many reasons from financial to career to plain old “I haven’t met a guy I want to have a telephone conversation with much less marry”. The changes in our society are making some doctors very wealthy and the whole industry is getting bigger. Bigger scares me. Bigger should scare you.
When I started this process (I was in the office of an RE two weeks after I got married), I was a doe-eyed, newlywed, an optimistic little thing with big dreams. Dreams that were born when I was a toddler (thank you, Walt Disney).
In the beautiful offices of my new RE there were hundreds of pictures of babies and books about parenting on every table. The entire place screamed “here are where your dreams are made”…I quickly formed an attachment with my affable RE that, looking back, was not healthy. He was fatherly and spoke with authority. He made jokes and made me feel special…I knew that my future family was important to him. Whatever this man said was like a word straight from the bible. I asked A LOT of questions and he reveled in the attention. He told me about “this blah blah conference where I spoke on ICSI”..ladidahdidah. I was enthralled. I took notes. He also liked reggaeton. He let me peek into his life and I spread mine open for him to examine (figuratively and I guess literally not to be TOOO crass). After months of “trying” ahead of my wedding, I was now going to escalate the process. I was 37 when I married and the clock was ticking. I was making it happen. I remember taking a co-worker with me to the clinic for monitoring and showing her the 8 growing follicles on the monitor – wondering aloud which would be my child or children. My fear at that point in life was multiples. I was terrified that I’d be having six children at once. I never once considered that I would walk out of there empty handed. Like everything else I’d known to be true, I’d be a mother…that was a given, just as I’d go to college and meet a nice man and eventually have a dog and picket fence. I’d already created my life long before I started living it, it seems.
In this clinic I started to learn a few of my first lessons in infertility and the business of disappointment. The first lesson, looking back, is that I was an enormous dollar sign. I represented many, many potential dollar bills. They has assessed me – they knew my financials (where we worked, how much my husband made, how much I made) and they knew my desire was strong. They combined financial potential with desire and came up with an equation. I was worth at least 3 climid cycles, 3 IUS and 7 IVF procedures. Oh yes, my commitment was strong and I had really amazing insurance and back up cash at that point.. They started me off on Clomid and let one of my follicles reach 28 before triggering me. 28! The other was around 24. I started to get annoyed and thus began my studies in Google MD. The next Clomid cycle was an interesting one. I got pregnant but nobody gave me progesterone. My level was a whopping 5 but I had a positive pregnancy. Not viable, they said. Quite likely because I was never given progesterone support. I left that clinic and never went back – far short of their financial plan for me, that much I know. I had no plan B for the first time in my life. I vowed to do a bit more research for the next time. It was 2005 so things like vitrification didn’t exist (or if they did, they were not widespread). PGD was around and things like CGH were but a hope…. My new boss found out that I was struggling and pulled me into his office. At the time I was working as the right hand for the COO of a very large investment bank. My boss was extraordinarily success at everything but procreation, it seemed. He gave me a number and a name of a doctor that would help. His wife was currently pregnant with twins and they had been trying for six years until they went to the name on the paper. I walked out of his office and dialed the number. Unfortunately they were full and would not be able to see me for six months. I mentioned my boss’s name and suddenly the doctor was available to meet me that day – he would forego his lunch for me. It was only one lunch, after all.
Future told, my visit would enable him to eat about 20 years worth of lunches. Yes, 20 years.
And this is just the beginning.